Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, a fan of cryptocurrencies, gave his reelection efforts a financial boost Thursday by dropping about $240,000 worth of bitcoin into his political campaign account.
Greenberg, who listed his personal worth as nearly $5.9 million in a state financial disclosure form filed on Sept. 3, said this month that he was going to mostly self-fund his campaign for a second term.
“I feel weird taking money from other people,” Greenberg said. “But I may take some small amounts. But I like the freedom [of not taking political contributions]”
Katrina Shadix, a Democrat who filed this week to run against Greenberg in the 2020 election, also couldn’t be reached. Shadix, who lost by a Seminole County Commission race in November to Republican Jay Zembower by a razor-thin margin, has yet to submit a campaign contribution report for September.
Using bitcoin — a highly volatile form of electronic currency — to fund political campaigns has become a growing trend in recent years as more candidates across the country accept donations in that form.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., for example, accepted contributions in bitcoin during his failed 2016 presidential bid. Also, Patrick Nelson, a Democrat running for a congressional seat in New York, accepted bitcoin contributions in 2018 before losing in the primary.
According to federal elections laws, federal candidates can accept bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrencies if the contributions are listed as “in kind” donations in campaign financial disclosure forms.
Florida’s elections statutes, however, don’t specifically address contributions in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies for candidates running for state or local government seats. It only says that any contributions of value made to a political candidate other than in money must be listed by value as an in-kind contribution. Greenberg listed his 30 units of bitcoin contribution as an in-kind contribution, according to the report.
That’s because many of Florida’s elections laws were written back in the 1970s after the Watergate scandal and haven’t been updated since, including addressing bitcoin contributions, Herron said.
Bitcoin and other similar cryptocurrencies aren’t issued by the government nor regulated by banks, and units of bitcoin are traded online.
But critics say bitcoin’s value can be highly volatile. For example, bitcoin’s value pegged to the U.S. dollar has ranged from a low of $3,168 to a high of $13,813 over the last 12 months, according to the financial website MarketWatch.
When Greenberg submitted his campaign finance report just before 7 p.m. Thursday, bitcoin was valued at $8,078, valued at $242,340. On Friday afternoon, the value was $8,028.70, reducing his campaign kitty to $240,861.
Since Greenberg was first elected in 2016 after defeating longtime Tax Collector Ray Valdes in the Republican primary, Greenberg has been a strong advocate for bitcoin and blockchain technology, which supports bitcoin. He has called it “the wave of the future.”
In June 2018, the Tax Collector’s office under Greenberg started using bitcoin as payments for new IDs, license plates and property taxes.